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Monday, December 5, 2016

It was the kind of rally we’ve come to expect from those Americans who think someone else’s equal rights are an assault on their way of life as perennial victims.

Long before politician Kim Davis took the stage in Grayson, Kentucky, her handlers were revving up the crowd of thousands. One resident in this town of 4,200 people figured out fast that God could be good for business and sold parking spaces at $20 a pop. Someone else handed out white cardboard crosses to bob over the crowd within camera range. The Daily Beast reported that one sign read, “GAY Got AIDS Yet?” On the other side, the sign read, “AIDS: Judgment or Cure?”

I can hear the objection: It’s one sign. It doesn’t represent us. Then why didn’t you do something about it? WWJD, my friends.

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who had nothing to do with Davis’ release from jail, walked onstage to get things going. He ended up trying to talk over the soundtrack, sounding like one of those Oscar winners whose long-windedness cues the orchestra.

The song blasting over the loudspeakers was Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” You may remember it as the theme song for Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky III. Survivor would like you to hold that thought. The band later blasted the organizers for using the song without permission and said the band doesn’t agree with the cause.

Huckabee ended his first speech with an introduction to Davis: “I believe that her act is going to wake up the politicians, the pastors and the people.”

Her act.

He got that right, just as surely as he didn’t mean to. The unconscious mind has an uncanny way of crawling out of our mouths, doesn’t it?

And what a performance it was. The Rowan County clerk strolled across the stage to Rocky Balboa’s theme song like a hostage escaped from Satan. She was free after six whole days in jail for refusing to obey the law and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In the money shot that quickly went viral, she raised her arms and lifted her face to the heavens. Crying and laughing at the same time, Davis acted as if it was all she could do to collect herself after her emancipation. Great showmanship on her part. You would never have known she had just spent the previous half-hour standing silently between Huckabee and Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver as they spoke for her, over and over, to the swarm of reporters and photographers.

“Thank you all so much,” Davis told the crowd. “I love you all so very much.” The crowd started chanting, and she raised her hand in the air again as if bearing witness. “I just want to give God the glory. His people have rallied, and you are a strong people. We serve a living God who knows exactly where each and every one of us is at. Just keep on pressing. Don’t let down, because He is here and He’s worthy. He’s worthy. I love you guys. Thank you so much.”

Emcee Huckabee added: “Ladies and gentlemen, your prayers have been answered. Kim will, tonight, go home. She will be with her family. She will sleep in her own bed.”

Sounds as if Davis won, right? But see, that’s not what happened. The judge released her on the condition that she stay out of the way of the five deputies who, free of her threats, are now issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Her chief legal adviser told CNN’s Martin Savidge that Davis hadn’t won anything. “She religiously was opposed to having her name appear on same-sex marriage licenses, and that hasn’t changed,” Savidge summarized. “It’s looking like this could be repeated once more.”

Now, if you’re like a lot of people I’ve been hearing from — not those predicting my ultimate journey into hell but the other ones — you want the media to stop covering Kim Davis. She’s one official in a little Podunk town. Why give her the attention, right?

I am grateful for the coverage. There was a time when elected officials like her all across the country violated U.S. Supreme Court rulings in their efforts to preserve a tradition of hate. They figured that no one who could do anything about it would ever find out.

Times have changed. This widespread coverage will deter some bigots and out others. And yes, I’ve been reading all the go-to-hell mail protesting my use of the word bigot. This is her religion, they say. Her personal beliefs.

Let me explain it again: Personal belief crosses the line into bigotry when a person wants to limit the legal rights of an entire group of people for being who they were born to be.

And answer this for me, would you? If this is about her religious convictions, shouldn’t she be willing to give up her salary for God?

You be in touch now.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz ([email protected]) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Photo: Kim Davis hugs her attorney Mathew Staver (R) after walking out of jail in Grayson, Kentucky on September 8, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Tilley